ABS-CBN asks NTC to suspend proceedings seeking to recall its frequencies

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 18 2020 05:07 PM | Updated as of May 18 2020 07:04 PM

ABS-CBN to NTC: No reason to hastily recall frequencies as Congress hinted grant of franchise

MANILA -- There is no basis for the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to hastily recall the frequencies assigned to ABS-CBN Corporation as it would turn out to be useless and costly, the media giant told the regulatory body last Friday.

"Recent developments in Congress...strongly indicate that ABS-CBN will soon be granted a new legislative franchise and will be able to resume operations," ABS-CBN said in its Verified Answer and Compliance.

Instead, ABS-CBN asked the NTC to suspend its proceedings pending the resolution of the network's petition before the Supreme Court.

The NTC, on May 5, gave the network 10 days to explain why the frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled as it ordered the ABS-CBN, DZMM and all its stations nationwide to immediately cease its broadcasts. The network complied with the cease and desist order.

The order covered 23 AM and FM radio stations, 42 TV stations and 10 DTTB stations across the country.

On May 13, the House of Representatives passed on second reading House Bill No. 6732 which seeks to grant ABS-CBN a provisional franchise to operate until October 31 this year. 

According to the network, the Senate, which is expected to also pass the bill, and the President, who will sign it, have indicated the grant of a franchise to ABS-CBN.

"An order to recall ABS-CBN's existing frequencies at this time will not only be useless but will even be wasteful," it argued, explaining that recalling ABS-CBN's frequencies would mean that the network would not be able to resume its broadcasts immediately.

"Worse, if the frequencies were to be reassigned to a third party, ABS-CBN would have to comply with all the regulatory processes for transferring to a new set of frequencies, even assuming that there would be available frequencies. ABS-CBN would also have to incur significant capital expenditures for re-tuning its equipment or replacing its broadcast system," it explained.

The network also said allowing ABS-CBN to continue operating is consistent with legislative intent, Congress having the sole power to grant and renew legislative franchises.

SUSPEND PROCEEDINGS

Rather than continue with the recall proceedings, ABS-CBN said the NTC should halt its proceedings as a matter of judicial courtesy, invoking the same reason NTC said in its response to the House of Representatives' show cause order.

The House had asked the NTC to explain why it should not be cited for disobeying its order to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN and instead issued a CDO.

The network cited its pending petition before the Supreme Court.

"While the relief sought before the Supreme Court is distinct, some arguments on the invalidity of the CDO are inextricably intertwined with the issue of whether this Honorable Commission should recall ABS-CBN's existing frequencies, in particular: (a) that due deference should have been accorded by this Honorable Commission to the legislature's exercise of its plenary power, and (b) that the Honorable Commission deviated from past practice and violated ABS-CBN's right to equal protection of the laws," it said.

"Due respect for the Supreme Court and practical and ethical considerations, therefore, dictate that that this Honorable Commission await the final determination of ABS-CBN's Petition in G.R. No. 252119 before proceeding with the instant case."

On Monday, ABS-CBN urged the Supreme Court to act on its plea for a temporary restraining order to halt the implementation of the NTC's cease and desist order and bring it back to air in a bid to stem P30-35 million pesos in revenue losses every day and save the jobs of its 11,000 workers.

ABS-CBN also reminded the NTC to comply with the requirements of procedural due process such as the right to a hearing before its frequencies can be recalled.

In its Supreme Court petition, it said its right to due process was violated when it was not notified nor heard prior to the issuance of the closure order.

"[T]he recall of ABS-CBN's frequencies at this time would serve no useful purpose, in light of the forthcoming grant of a franchise and the pendency of a case with similar issues before the Supreme Court," the network stressed.

"In fact, the recall could only be detrimental to the public interest, as it would hamper the ability of ABS-CBN to immediately resume serving the public through its broadcasts, once the franchise is granted."